UK Recruiting

Next Cats: Fathers of UK targets Lyles, Blackmon Jr. note value of Madness visit

James Blackmon Jr., the son of the former Wildcat, is fresh off an official visit to UK for Big Blue Madness. The Hoosiers are still on the list of the Indiana all-star, but Kentucky is seen as the favorite now.
James Blackmon Jr., the son of the former Wildcat, is fresh off an official visit to UK for Big Blue Madness. The Hoosiers are still on the list of the Indiana all-star, but Kentucky is seen as the favorite now.

Two of John Calipari's top recruits will make the trip from Indiana to Rupp Arena on Friday night for Big Blue Madness.

One knows exactly what to expect. The other, not so much.

Trey Lyles — a senior power forward from Indianapolis — attended Madness last season with his father. What did Tom Lyles think about that night?

"There's ab-so-lute-ly noth-ing like it," he told the Herald-Leader, stressing every syllable for effect. "From the ceremony to the light show to the dancing. Just the energy in the room for a scrimmage. ... It's electrifying. If you are a shell-shocked person, that's not the place for you. But I think it's fantastic."

James Blackmon Sr. — a Kentucky Wildcat from 1984-87 — doesn't remember such "madness" during his playing days in Lexington.

"We did some drills and came out and practiced," he told the Herald-Leader. "Just to have the excitement of your first official practice at midnight in front of a packed house in Memorial Coliseum."

What about the light shows? The dancing? The stump speeches from the head coach?

"That will be a first for me," Blackmon said.

The former UK player will be in Rupp on Friday with his son, James Blackmon Jr., who is considered one of the best shooting guards in the senior class.

Blackmon Sr. coaches his son's high school team and has helped guide him through the recruiting process. He has plenty of advice to offer, but he has no idea what to tell him to expect Friday night.

"It's totally different," he said. "I've been out of school 20-some years and times have changed since then. It's a whole different ball game now."

Lyles and Blackmon will spend all weekend in Lexington for their official visits. They've visited UK's campus before, but this is their chance to spend a little more time with the team, the coaches and the support staff that surrounds the program.

Both players committed to home-state Indiana early in their freshman years of high school. Lyles backed out of that pledge last summer, and Blackmon did the same this year.

After one decommitment, the players and their parents want to make sure they get it right the second time around.

"I'm looking forward to him getting a chance to spend time with the guys, with the current players," Tom Lyles said. "Get a chance to talk to them. We've talked to the coaches quite a bit, but as a player, you get a little more insight of what it looks like being part of that program from guys that are just coming in. ... I'm looking forward to him getting that experience." considers Lyles the No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2014. He has narrowed his list to Kentucky and Louisville, which he visited in late August.

Blackmon — ESPN's No. 19 player in the senior class — reopened his recruitment in August, and UK was one of several schools that immediately offered a scholarship.

He's taken a handful of unofficial visits and has narrowed his list to five schools: UK, Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State and Kansas.

This weekend's trip will be Blackmon's second official visit — Michigan was the other — and he's still considering visits to the other schools on his list.

"He just wants to see the players, get a chance to watch them practice and get a chance to sit down and meet with the coaches again," Blackmon Sr. said. "Questions he may have, or some of his concerns, I think this will be the appropriate time to address it.

"I've told him to just make sure he's comfortable with this whole situation and this whole process."

Lyles and Blackmon have played for the same summer team for the past four years, and both fathers said the two players are close.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll pick the same school.

Tom Lyles talked about the "individual process" of making a college decision and finding the right fit for his son.

"And I'm sure James Sr. is sharing that with Junior," he said.

For at least one night, Lyles and Blackmon and their dads will all be together in Rupp Arena. The elder Lyles is looking forward to the return trip, and the elder Blackmon will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

"Big Blue Madness — there's nothing like it," Lyles said. "You get 25,000 people to come out to see a scrimmage? That just doesn't happen."

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